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Commanding Breena, the Demagogue

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Multiplayer Commander is a tabletop game of politics which only happens to use Magic cards. The politics can be overt, with verbal deals such as, "I won't attack you this turn if you don't attack me," or more subtle machinations with cards that incentivize your opponents to leave you alone and battle each other.

Breena, the Demagogue

Breena, the Demagogue rewards discord between your foes and benefits you for attacking early and often. In most Commander decks, cheap creatures are pointless, but White weenies have value to us. If we curve Selfless Spirit into a turn three Breena, we can immediately draw a card and start strengthening our bird warlock with +1/+1 counters. From there our game plan is fully realized, attacking for more and more commander damage each turn, and protecting her with indestructibility. As long as Breena keeps hooting, we have our draw engine. We have no need for huge amounts of ramp, which is a good thing because that doesn't play to the strengths of our colors.

Keen Duelist
Baleful Mastery

Our power is in politics. Breena's wording not only divides your opponents but allows you to maintain a specific ally. Form a strong bond with another player with cards like Keen Duelist and Baleful Mastery. You can then attack the other two players, whichever has the most health, and get Breena's benefits. Once you're out of enemies, you don't have to turn on your ally. Instead, you can choose to win together, which I wrote about in my article Allied Victory.

Owl Fanclub | Commander | AE Marling


Shadrix Silverquill

People underestimate the power of politics in Commander. That's the only reason I can think of for why Shadrix Silverquill is the least desired and cheapest of the Strixhaven elder dragons. I already preordered my copy because, yes, I want to draw a card immediately while sending my ally a present. Our deck is packed with cards to help our team, from Wishclaw Talisman to Infernal Offering. We want to give a foe every reason to be your friend.

And being our foe should be painful as possible. Not only do we have Ghostly Prison and No Mercy to punish an attack but also the new Cunning Rhetoric. Regardless of how powerful it is to play a card from an opponent's deck, to them it will feel powerfully bad. To avoid attacking you, your foes will convince themselves to attack each other. The best political cards don't remove choices, like Shiny Impetus, but encourage opponents to make the choices we want. In doing so they will become more entrenched, believing they were right not to attack us, and the person they attacked will be more likely to blame them, not us. If we had forced the opponent's hand, these feelings would be reversed, and we would be more likely to be targeted.

Cunning Rhetoric
Bloodthirsty Blade

That said, we are also playing Bloodthirsty Blade. It's not subtle, but it is the strongest way for us to goad.

What we are less interested in are cards that harm all our opponents equally. A Wrath of God will kill all our ally's creatures too. We would rather those beaters stay in play to rough up our opponents. Instead, we have Bounty Agent, which can trigger our commander on turn three and also scare away other legends. The sweepers we are playing still have political angles to them, such as the exciting new Promise of Loyalty and the ally-sparing Devastating Mastery.

Promise of Loyalty
Devastating Mastery

Cards that annoy all our opponents are also fraught. Not only will Blind Obedience draw ire, but it'll also harm any ally. I excluded Smothering Tithe as well because of its known power. People will try to remove it or simply attack you, and we have less need to ramp than other decks.

Scholarship Sponsor

The majority of our ramp is in the form of catch-up cards like Scholarship Sponsor. I've always enjoyed these since the early days of Tithe, and I think they're a fine mechanic for White. Early plays like Knight of the White Orchid are even better here for that first Breena trigger. Our opponent's ramp spells will facilitate them, as will our own cards like Orzhov Basilica and Lotus Field. Bouncing our own lands has additional value with double-faced cards like Agadeem's Awakening. We can play the land early then return later for the spell.

For top end we're playing an Orzhov mainstay in Debtors' Knell. Our other big plays enable our commander, who hopefully by that time will be a frightening flying force, with so many counters you'll need a d20. True Conviction will double her beak pecks, and Avacyn, Angel of Hope will keep her hooting. Above all we don't want our commander to die because she'll lose all her counters, unless of course we have The Ozolith.

The Ozolith

I wish to give some love to the C21 cycle, including Excavation Technique. The flexibility of this card lets you walk a small creature you don't need straight into the bank for two treasures. You can also pay another commander two treasures to take a walk, all the while giving your ally the same options.

The last thing I wanted to discuss is what it means for Breena to be demagogue. She persuades with the force of her personality, recruiting people to her cause. In DnD we would say she has high charisma. What a demagogue does with this power can vary. Throughout history we can find people who have used their voice for evil. Unfortunately, that history is all too recent. The definition of a demagogue often references the tendency of pitting people against each other, of playing off prejudices for one's own advantage. We should be aware this still happens today, with the rich using racism to keep the working class fractured and angry at each other rather than the 1% who get richer by the day. As said by Martin Luther King, Jr., "The Southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow."

The title of demagogue is all too apt for Breena, mechanically. Fortunately, your goal of winning a game of Commander is far more worthy than those of notorious demagogues. Regardless of the outcome, I would use Breena as a conversation starter. If a bird warlock divided the table of friends against each other, imagine what a human politician can do in real life. Because like multiplayer, life is all about politics, and anyone who tells you different is trying to take advantage of a board state where they're already winning.

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